Marketing Mistakes: What NOT to do in your E-Newsletter (with an example!)

In recent years, many companies have moved to using e-mail as a primary method to mass communicate with clients as well as potential clients.  There are a lot of really amazing services out there that allow you to collect, verify and maintain your “mailing list” – Constant Contact is what we used at my old landscaping company, and now I use Mail Chimp – it’s almost free and a GREAT web-based service that links up with my website here.  For those of you that have ever asked for notifications from here, or have received my newsletter, you’ve been hit by the Chimp!

I believe there is a strategy that needs to be executed upon when communicating with your clients via an e-newsletter.  I’ve helped a handful of folks determine the strategy, schedule and message in their online newsletters.  It’s an extension of your brand, so if you’re doing it on your own, be careful what you “publish” to everyone out there on the good ‘ole WWW.

My thought is that you want to include relevant information to your industry, your clients, your team – all of which will tell the story of who you are and further develop the element of company culture.  Personally, I don’t think that there should be a “Call to Action” (i.e. – 50% off through this Friday message) in an electronic newsletter – especially if you want sustainability in your list and want your subscribers to read it every time you publish it.

Recently, a friend forwarded me an e-newsletter from someone in the landscape industry.  I’ll admit it – it was one of the most poorly written, borderline offensive, anti-brand, culture ripping emails I’ve read in a long time.  I was really embarrassed for this company – which is why my friend sent it to me.

Here it is, then I’ll share with you my observations:

Dear XXXXX,Where the hell is spring?Let’s face it, the best months in XXXXX are the few weeks in April and May and then again in October and November.  Summer sucks in XXX.  Winter sucks, too.  Are we really gonna be cheated out of our spring?

Crabgrass WILL germinate this week.  But, it’ll still be controlled with our crabgrass product, as long as it’s small (0.5 inches).  Assuming the temps stay hot, our advice is not to delay the first application of crabgrass preventer.  On the flip-side, a single frost will kill crabgrass, if it has emerged.  But that’s not something we want, because the launch sequence to spring has been activated!  The collateral damage to the desirable plants would be terrible.

There have been a couple of questions already about the proper mowing height.  For turf-type fescue lawns, 2.5 inches is plenty short.  For bluegrass, 2.0 inches is fine.  We’re not going to recommend low mowing heights in the spring, after the initial clean-up cuts, because we want to avoid stressing the turf.  Stressing turf in early spring can lead to worse disease problems in the summer.

If you’ve got a thick coat of dead leaves on zoysiagrass, go ahead and mow that hay as low as you can, right away.  Take it down 0.5 inches at a time, to avoid stressing your lawn mower engine.  And don’t even think about dethatching zoysia until it’s 50% green!

If you don’t know the mowing heights for each of your mower settings, ask your dealer, or Google it.

Did you notice the stinky smell of the flower pears?  Why do people love these crappy trees?  They’ve got so many problems…so don’t plant them.  Take note of all the “escaped” pear trees all along the highway.  It’s nearly a noxious weed species in the state of XXXX.

Broadleaf weeds abound!  A broadleaf plant is literally that…a plant with a “broad leaf”, as opposed to a grass, or a “narrowleaf” plant.  Here are two of the most common culprits right now…henbit and hairy bittercress.  They’re both “winter annuals,” meaning they germinated last fall.  Henbit is quite noticeable, albeit without flowers, all winter long, and we told you last winter to spray these bad asses on sunny days reaching 50 degrees.  A kissin’ cousin of henbit is deadnettle (Lamium).  It has triangular leaves, but the same purple flowers, as henbit.  Both of these weeds are in the mint family, and therefore, have square stems.  By the way, a more “enjoyable” common name for deadnettle is “whorehound.”   Makes you wonder how this weed earned that distinction, don’t it?  Based upon how we men behave(d), this weed could have been called “Bill, or Jeff, or Tom or Dick or…”.  Sorry for that digression.

Bittercress, depicted in the picture below whorehound, is far less aggressive and a tiny little dude, exploding into a low growing mat in the spring.  There are about a dozen of similar “winter cress” species, and they often have exploding seed pods, which facilitate their spread.  A thick and luxurious turf in the fall is the best defense against winter annual weeds (as well as crabgrass in the spring and summer).  It’s easy to kill most broadleaf weeds with our broadleaf weed killer.  If you haven’t seeded bare spots this spring go ahead and hose these weeds down ASAP.  But, please be sure to spray when it’s calm, because if you spray broadleaf killer on windy days, you’ll hurt all the ornamental plants downwind from you…in your neighbor’s yard.  So exercise some caution.  If you’ve done some spot seeding, you’ve got to wait till the new turf is at least 2 inches tall, lest you stunt its growth.

A thick stand of henbit can choke out new turf!


Hairy bittercress is not as troublesome as henbit, and easy to control

Be sure to check the website for our warehouse hours, before heading over there.  Or, just shoot us an email or call for other possible arrangements.


When I read this, honestly, I cringed.  Here is what flew through my head:

  • It was WAY too long – a lot of run on sentences
  • It was not graphically pleasing (it was lime green with only two photos, thats it)
  • It gave a lot of technical information – data that the client likely did not care about
  • It had punctuation and grammar errors
  • It had bad language, or what would be perceived as bad language to some
  • It was not professional – seemed a bit too casual
  • It was hard for me to take the author seriously – it seemed like something they wrote while drinking beer one night
  • To me, it really didn’t give any direct take-aways
  • It was all a sales letter to get you into their facility or to buy for them

What did you notice?  What would you have done differently?

I used to have a client that used Constant Contact like it was going out of style.  If you EVER emailed him for anything, he would enter you into his email list.  It upset people, including a few people that I knew as they said something to me.  “How did I get on THIS guys list?”  – SO, make sure your list is pure if you choose to use email as a marketing avenue.  That is one reason why I ask people to give me their business card at events – and I flat out tell them I will be sending them an email.  Don’t spam.  It will hurt your reputation more than help it.

This marketing medium can be HUGE if you take it seriously, make it look sexy, control your list, and do it infrequently (meaning, don’t send a message every day or multiple times a day)…  Wow your clients with relevant information, tips and things that HELP them solve a problem, rather than one huge ad to do business with you.

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